i-mean III conference and panel on language contact

by Jeanette Sakel

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over the last three days, UWE became a great hub of linguistics again, with our i-mean conference now in it’s third season. Started and organised by UWE’s Jo Angouri and Kate Beeching, it has become a gigantic gathering of linguists working in sociolinguistics, pragmatics, discourse and related fields – with 7 parallel sessions, impressive plenary talks and a range of specialist panels.

I was running one such panel – on language contact and identity. ‘Identity’ was the theme of the overall conference, and it’s relevant to many of the things we do in contact linguistics. Yet, I also realised that we may often take identity for granted, or leave it aside. The panel was a place for a number of us contact linguists to look at our data and to evaluate which contribution identity could have to the outcomes of contact, i.e. to look at just one factor that plays a role in language contact.

The outcomes were highly interesting, and there were a lot of commonalities in our findings, as well as a range of areas which we feel need to be explored in greater detail. In reverse order, the talks featured Ad Backus (Tilburg) presenting on ‘identity is meaning’:

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Our own Anna Piasecki looked at psycholinguistic aspects and how to measure identity:

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Pelin Onar Valk & Ad Backus (both Tilburg) discussed in more detail Dutch-Turkish, in particular change at the level of complex clauses:

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Devyani Sharma (Queen Mary, London) discussed ‘the social foundations of feature pools’ with specific examples from the English of speakers with an Asian background in London:

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Peter Bakker (Aarhus) looked at new languages, in particular mixed languages and creoles, and the role of identity in their creation:

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Christel Stolz (Bremen) discussed the role of identity in a specific multilingual situation, the Saterland in northern Germany:

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My own paper was about the role identity plays in some of the outcomes of language contact (in particular matter, pattern and “PHON” – i.e. accent, types of interference). I looked at much of the work I’ve been doing in recent years and found that identity played a clear role in the types of contact situations I’ve been dealing with – and it’s particularly relevant to my current work on Somali/English contact.

I also went to a whole range of talks – some in fields very different from mine – and learnt a lot about the role of identity in language. I find that conferences are always extremely useful to get a perspective on one’s own work – as well as giving ideas for further studies. In both cases (and so many more!) i-mean was really successful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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